Of a Certain Age
A verbatim documentary theatre project
about performing artists and professionals
over the age of 65
The verbatim documentary theatre play Of a Certain Age was created from transcriptions, audio recordings, and field notes collected by a team of ten artist-researchers trained in a specific interviewing protocol in order to answer the following research questions:
- What are the experiences of becoming an older performing artist or arts professional (over the age of 65)?
- How can gaining a clearer understanding of these experiences of older performing artists help to combat ageism within the population at large?
In November and December 2017, the team interviewed 37 performing artists, professionals, and commentators, all over the age of 65. The artist-researchers then selected, transcribed, and collected sections of those interviews into a data set totaling approximately 225 pages. In January 2018, the playwright/director, along with the dramaturg and assistant director, worked to sort through that stack of transcriptions, code the data into piles representing recurring themes, and generate a draft script.
On January 21, eight of the artist-researchers began rehearsing with the draft script and the scenic elements. They have studied the collected data to create verbatim portraits of sixteen interview participants who emerged as voices in the play. The performances are word for word based on the interviews and also include gestural patterns notated in the field notes for each interview. The designers also used information from the data set to create the costumes, scenic elements, props, and the soundscape used in the performance. In each step of the process, the creative choices were driven by a code of ethics necessary to work with real peoples’ stories and the aesthetic sensibilities needed to create and perform a dynamic piece of theatre.
Of a Certain Age was performed at the Provincetown Playhouse, February 23-March 4, 2018.
The project was a production of NYU Steinhardt's Program in Educational Theatre, in collaboration with the Verbatim Performance Lab and The Actors Fund, a national human services organization that fosters stability and resiliency, and provides a safety net for performing arts and entertainment professionals over their lifespan. Through offices in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, The Fund serves everyone in film, theatre, television, music, opera, radio and dance with programs including social services and emergency financial assistance, health care and insurance counseling, housing, and secondary employment and training services.
A Teacher's Resource Guide is available for classroom use. To request a copy, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rai Arsa Artha is an undergraduate senior in NYU’s Educational Theatre program. Select acting credits: The Miracle Worker (James Keller); Othello (Michael Cassio); The Shadow of a Gunman (Tommy Owens). Select creative credits: Found, A New Musical (Composer/Music Director); Chrysanthemum the Musical (Composer/Music Director); Fugitive Songs (Music Director). Upcoming projects: [title of show] (Music Director); Margaret, A New Musical (Composer/Music Director). Rai was an intern last year for Joe Salvatore’s Off-Broadway verbatim piece, Her Opponent. He sends warm thanks to all his mentors, friends, and family for their unending love and support.
Josh Batty is a recent graduate of the NYU Master’s program in Educational Theatre for Colleges and Communities. Originally from Oklahoma, he has worked as a band director, musical theatre instructor, and teaching artist at various levels of primary and secondary education. He has taught and directed at Oklahoma Children's Theatre, a non-profit arts institution, since 2005. Most recently, Josh appeared in NYU Educational Theatre's Hear Them Roar: The Fight for Women's Rights.
Megan Conway is a first-year student in the undergraduate Educational Theatre program. She was heavily involved in theatre in high school and is super excited to be making her NYU stage debut! She would like to especially thank her grandparents, both avid supporters of the arts, for inspiring her during this production and remind them that they are not old, they are simply saturated with life.
Sherill-Marie Henriquez is excited to be passing along the stories of Carmen G. and MEM (who is as old as Israel). Being part of this arts-based research project has been a pleasure. Sherill-Marie enjoys the adventure of contributing to devised, immersive, and developing work, as she has most recently done alongside New Plays for Young Audiences, American Immersion Theatre, and Break the Sex Myth. Sherill-Marie is a Master of Arts candidate in NYU Steinhardt's Educational Theatre program and a facilitator at Creative Connections. She has also been a visiting teaching artist at Union City Music and Dance Academy, Columbia University’s Double Discovery Center, Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart, M.S. 224, and the Miami International Children’s Film Festival. A native of Union City, NJ, Sherill-Marie holds a BA in Ethnicity and Race Studies from Columbia University. In her spare time, she tries to come as close as she can to flying through aerial arts.
Suzy Jane Hunt is a third-year Master’s candidate in the Educational Theatre program at NYU. Some of her favorite acting credits include Pastor Tim’s wife Alice on FX’s The Americans, Viola in Twelfth Night at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, Juliet in Three Day Hangover’s Romeo + Juliet, Agent Shiffman on CBS's Person of Interest, and the world premiere of Theresa Rebeck’s Our House at Denver Center Theatre.
Keith Morris is a first-year student in the undergraduate Educational Theatre program from Boston, Massachusetts, making his New York acting debut! Greater Boston credits include: Sweeney Todd, Noises Off, Comedy of Errors, Twelfth Night, As You Like It, Les Misérables, Thoroughly Modern Millie. He sends thanks to his roommates, friends, family, and fellow company members for making Of a Certain Age an unforgettable experience.
Amalia Ritter is a second-year Master’s candidate in the NYU Educational Theatre program and holds a BA from City College of New York. She is also a devoted teacher to 15 four- and five-year-old pre-kindergartners, and passionate about blending process drama and creative play with early childhood education. In graduate school, Amalia discovered a love for ethnodrama and data-driven performance and writing, and is currently working on her first play.
Hayley Sherwood is a theatre maker, teaching artist, and arts administrator, originally from San Diego. She has collaborated with some amazing companies such as New Repertory Theatre and American Repertory Theatre in Boston and Story Pirates in New York City, and is currently working on the Community Works program and community-engaged theatre project at Williamstown Theatre Festival. She is a proud graduate of Boston University's School of Theatre and recently graduated from NYU's Educational Theatre program with her Master's degree. She hopes you learn something from this performance and then share it with a friend!
Sarah Bellantoni (Dramaturg) is a proud alumna of the Program in Educational Theatre. She completed her undergraduate work at NYU in the spring of 2005 and began teaching at The Chapin School that fall. She has been teaching at Chapin for 13 years, working with elementary through high school aged students. Sarah’s passion is creating original work, particularly verbatim theater. In 2015, in collaboration with Joe Salvatore, she created and directed a verbatim theater piece with her Upper School students that explored childhood. In the years since, she has taught a Verbatim Theater elective to her high school students. Sarah is thrilled to be back at NYU working alongside such a talented and dedicated team.
Leah Cohen (Lighting Designer) is a senior in the undergraduate Program in Educational Theatre. She is stoked to be collaborating on this production! Selected credits: Look Me in the Eyes (Lighting Designer) with American Renaissance Theater Company; The Lion King (Lighting Designer) with The Chapin School; Stop Kiss (Scenic and Props Designer), Fugitive Songs: A Song Cycle (Lighting Designer), and Cabaret (Lighting Designer) with Uproar Theatre Corps; Hear Them Roar (Lighting Designer), The Miracle Worker (Lighting Designer), and Noël Coward's Brief Encounter (Assistant Lighting Designer) with NYU's Program in Educational Theatre; and Dogfight (Lighting Designer) with A Class Act NYU.
Traci DiGesu (Theraturg), LMSW, is currently the Senior Activities and Volunteer Program Manager at The Waldman Living Room, a program of The Actors Fund. A graduate of Rutgers University School of Social Work, Traci's focus as a social worker is on aging and community engagement with older adults. She would like to thank The Actors Fund for the responsive and unique opportunities that their programming provides to members of the performing arts and entertainment community. Prior to Traci's work as a social worker, she worked for over 20 years as a costume designer and taught Costume Design at NYU Steinhardt, where she had the pleasure of designing costumes for 5 x Wilder, Transfigured, and Plays from the Provincetown Players. Traci is thrilled to be back at NYU's Provincetown Playhouse and to be working with such a terrific company of artists. Deepest gratitude to Joe Salvatore for listening to these stories and to giving them voice.
Daryl Embry (Lighting Designer) is thrilled to be collaborating with Joe Salvatore and company on this project. Previous design credits in the Provincetown Playhouse include: Two Weeks with the Queen, Brief Encounter, Towards The Fear, The School for Scandal, The Crucible, and Yikes! Daryl is an adjunct instructor and alum of the Program in Educational Theatre.
Andy Hall (Scenic Designer) is a set designer whose work has been featured at many theaters, including Two River Theater Company, The Hangar Theatre, Syracuse Stage, Urban Stages, The Shakespeare Theater of New Jersey, and The Juilliard School. Andy is happy to be back after collaborating with director Joe Salvatore for In Real Time at the Provincetown. He currently teaches Scene Design and Rendering at SUNY Purchase.
Cassie Holzum (Production Stage Manager) is a junior in the Educational Theatre program. Her recent stage management credits include Into the Woods (Wingspan), Her Opponent (Off-Broadway), and Hear Them Roar: The Fight for Women’s Rights (NYU). Cassie has also been doing several projects with the Verbatim Performance Lab and finds this work at the intersection of research and the arts extremely rewarding. She thanks the entire team for their focus on the details, their laughter over Satan’s Jenga, and their constant positive energies.
Jiawen Hu (Assistant Stage Manager) is a second-year master’s candidate in the Educational Theatre for Colleges and Communities program. Born and raised in China, Jiawen has been exploring the social and natural life of Asian females in documentary theater. She is also enthusiastic about arts education with young students. Thanks to this incredible cast and crew!
Márion Talán (Costume Designer) is the Wardrobe Supervisor for the Juilliard School. This is her tenth year of collaborations with director Joe Salvatore, including recent productions of the interactive performance ga(y)ze, In Real Time, and open heart. Dance design credits include works with choreographers Bryan Arias, Julia Eichten, Caleb Teicher, Liz Gerring, Norbert de la Cruz, Ohad Naharin, and Larry Keigwin, among others. mariontalan.com
Joe Salvatore (Co-creator / Director) is a playwright and director and a Clinical Associate Professor of Educational Theatre at NYU Steinhardt. He teaches courses in ethnodrama, ethno-acting, new play development, applied theatre, and dramatic literature, and serves as the director of Steinhardt’s Verbatim Performance Lab. Joe’s most recent work, in collaboration with economist Maria Guadalupe (INSEAD-France), is called Her Opponent, an ethnodramatic re-staging of excerpts of the 2016 presidential debates with gender-reversed casting. The Off-Broadway production of that project was nominated for an Off-Broadway Alliance Award for Best Unique Theatrical Experience and was covered by various news outlets including the New York Times, The Guardian, The Hollywood Reporter, Breitbart, Fox News, MSNBC, and ABC News, among others. Other plays and performance projects include Full City+ with Keith R. Huff, Jenny Macdonald’s solo play ENTHRONED (Dublin’s First Fortnight Festival, FringeNYC, 2016), ga(y)ze (with Troy Hourie and Caleb Teicher on 14th Street, NYC), Towards the Fear, “Like” Like (part of Hall Pass in NYC and San Diego), Mother’s Milk (part of Play/Date at NYC’s Fat Baby), open heart (FringeNYC, 2010), and fag / hag (with Kate Nugent, FringeNYC, 2000). His play III received the Overall Excellence Award for Outstanding Play from FringeNYC (2008) and was subsequently published in Best American Short Plays 2008-2009 (Applause Books). Member: Dramatists Guild of America and the American Alliance for Theatre and Education. Alumnus: Lincoln Center Directors Lab. | @profjoesal
Andy Wagner (Assistant Director) is a New York based actor, teacher, and storyteller. Professional credits include The Newsroom, Law and Order: SVU, Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders, Gameshakers, and the films Kidnap and Hopeless Romantic. Andy will graduate with a master’s degree in Educational Theatre from NYU in May and has recently worked as a Teaching Artist with The Moth and TADA! Youth Theater. He also collects toys, builds Legos, reads Batman comics, and just finds any excuse to behave like a 12 year old.
Darren Whorton (Sound Designer) Thanks to Joe Salvatore for this opportunity! Sound designer or consultant: Off-Broadway: Her Opponent. NYU Educational Theatre: Brief Encounter, Little Shop of Horrors, Underground (Forum on Site-Specific Performance), Meta, Theatrix. Lower Manhattan Arts Academy: In the Heights, The Wiz, HAIR. Love and thanks to Rachel.
Han Yu (Research & Production Assistant) is a second-semester Master’s student in the Educational Theatre program. She is from Shanghai, China. She has a BA in theatre and English from Lehigh University. This is the first time she’s been involved in an NYU production. She is so excited and grateful to work with so many wonderful and talented people!